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Temporary Amnesia, Confusion Raise Stroke, Dementia Risk
Date:12/26/2007

Dutch study suggests these lapses need to be taken more seriously

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Brief bouts of amnesia or confusion raise a person's risk of having a stroke or developing dementia, Dutch scientists suggest.

The findings, which add to previous research linking "mini-strokes" to full-fledged strokes, make sense to Dr. Argye Beth Hillis, a professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

In the United States, some doctors typically take memory loss seriously, she said. But elsewhere in the world, "there are places where any kind of [brief neurological difficulty] is not taken seriously. That's changing, and it should," she added.

Neurologists like Hillis are very familiar with transient ischemic attacks, also known as "mini-strokes," which typically last about a minute and can cause a variety of sudden stroke-like symptoms, such as numbness, confusion, headache and difficulty seeing or walking. These attacks happen when clots briefly block blood flow to a specific part of the brain.

In the new study, the researchers looked at a different category of brief neurological problems -- confusion or brief amnesia that doesn't seem to be caused by a problem in a single region of the brain. "Damage to different areas can interfere with memory or level of alertness," she said.

Hillis said she sees such cases about once a month. "It usually is very transient and lasts less than a day, several hours during which people just don't remember what they did or said during that period. Generally, they never do remember that time period," she said. "I saw someone yesterday who had decorated a tree very nicely, and later that day he came down and said, 'Who decorated the tree?' He couldn't remember doing it at all."

In such cases, physicians often prescribe aspirin to thin the blood, she said.

In this latest study, researchers looked at 6,062 subjects
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